WHO Calls for Better Early Detection of Cancer

In a report released ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for better and earlier cancer diagnosis and treatment to improve survival outcomes.

“Diagnosing cancer in late stages, and the inability to provide treatment, condemns many people to unnecessary suffering and early death,” said Etienne Krug, MD, MPH, director of the Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention at WHO. “By taking the steps to implement WHO’s new guidance, health-care planners can improve early diagnosis of cancer and ensure prompt treatment. This will result in more people surviving cancer. It will also be less expensive to treat and cure cancer patients.”

The report detailed three steps to early diagnosis:

  1. Improve public awareness of different cancer symptoms and encourage people to seek care when symptoms arise.
  2. Invest in strengthening and equipping health services and training health workers to ensure accurate and timely diagnostics.
  3. Ensure people living with cancer can access safe and effective treatment, including pain relief, without incurring prohibitive personal or financial hardship.

The report also outlined the financial impact of earlier diagnosis: In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer through health-care expenditure and loss of productivity was estimated to be $1.16 trillion. “Not only is the cost of treatment much less in cancer’s early stages, but people can also continue to work and support their families if they can access effective treatment in time,” WHO authors noted.

Sources: World Health Organization news release, February 3, 2017; Reuters, February 3, 2017.